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Plywood Coffee Table 


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Plywood Coffee Table 

Written By: Andy Lee 


Gloves (1) 
Ruler (1) 

Safety goggles (1) 
Sandpaper (1) 



• Plywood (1) 

• Wooden pegs (4) 

• Stain and finish (1) 


When I needed some furniture, I decided to build a set out of 3/4" birch veneer plywood. To 
make the furniture easy to assemble without any fasteners, I designed each component 
piece with slots that mate with one another and hold the whole piece together. Not having 
fasteners makes the furniture easy to pack up and transport. Finally, each piece is cut 
exactly from a half sheet of plywood to avoid waste. 

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Page 1 of 7 

Plywood Coffee Table 

• Obtain a 4'x4' piece of 3/4" plywood 
that is in good condition and free 
from warping and knots. You'll also 
need four 1" x1/4" wooden pegs. 
Different grades of plywood vary in 
price, ranging from rough 
particleboard to finely veneered 
and pre-sanded. This project will 
work with any type. I chose Baltic 
birch veneered 5-ply from a local 
hardware store. If your sheet does 
have a knot or two, plan your 
production so that they wind up on 
the underside, rather than facing 
out. After sanding and painting, the 
piece will look great. 

• CAUTION: Whenever 
working with or handling 
wood it's a good idea to use gloves 
to protect your hands from getting 
splinters. Wear safety goggles and 
hearing protection while using any 
tools, and always secure the 
material you're working with to a 
stationary object using clamps or a 
vice. It's best to work with a 
partner, and it also makes projects 
more fun. 

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Plywood Coffee Table 

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Referring to the pattern, measure and mark your plywood along lines 1, 2, and 3. These 
divide the sheet into 4 pieces: a tabletop, a brace, and 2 legs. To ensure accuracy in 
measuring, the trick is to measure from 2 or 3 different directions and make sure that they 
all yield the same result. I often measure cuts I'm about to make from opposite ends of the 
plywood, and then use a square to ensure their proper angle against the edge of the 

TIP: To make clean, straight cuts with a handheld jigsaw or circular saw, clamp down a 
fence at either end of the material and run it along the edge you want to cut. A fence is 
simply a straight, solid object that provides an edge for your tool to rest against. 

Halve the plywood sheet to 
produce two 4'x2' pieces. One 
piece will be the tabletop and the 
second one will become the legs 
and the brace that holds the other 3 
parts together. 

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Page 3 of 7 

Plywood Coffee Table 

• Make a cut parallel to the first 
that's 5"-10" in from the edge. This 
creates a narrow 48" piece that will 
serve as the table's brace. The 
wider you make this piece, the 
lower and more stable your table 
will be. I made a taller table by 
cutting a 5" brace piece. 

Step 5 

Clamp the larger piece left over 
from Cut 2, and cut it evenly in 
half, perpendicular to the first 2 
cuts. With my table's 
measurements, this turned a 
19"x48" piece into two 19"x24" 

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Page 4 of 7 

Plywood Coffee Table 

• Cut the 4 slots, following the 
measurements on the pattern in 
Step 2. Note that although the 
plywood is labeled as 3/4", its 
actual thickness may vary. So for 
each slot, you should first measure 
the thickness of the plywood it will 
fit around (calipers are handy for 
this), and make the slot a few 
hundredths of an inch larger. 

• TIP: There are several ways to cut 
slots with handheld tools. One 
method is to use a 3/4" hole saw or 
paddle drill bit and drill a hole at the 
inside end of the "soon-to-be slot." 
Then cut 2 parallel lines, tangent to 
the hole, out to the edge of the 
board. Another way is to drill holes 
at the inside corners of the slot that 
are just large enough to admit a 
jigsaw blade, then jigsaw out from 
those. The third method is to cut a 
slot straight out using a router and 
a 3/4" router bit. This is the best 
method, provided you have the 

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Plywood Coffee Table 

Step 7 — Test assemble, and set the pegs 

• Slide the legs and brace together, to make sure they all fit. Along the top edge of each leg 
piece, measure 2" in from each end and mark a point centered on the edge of the plywood. 

• Disassemble the pieces, and drill 1/4" holes at each of these 4 points, 1/2" deep. On the 
underside of the tabletop, mark 4 corresponding points and drill 3/8" receiving holes for the 
pegs 1/2" deep. I marked locations by sliding pieces of pencil into the leg holes and 
centering the tabletop on top. 

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Plywood Coffee Table 

• You have many creative choices 
when it comes to finishing your 
furniture. You can sand the edges, 
finish them with a router, or level 
them square. You also need to seal 
the wood, especially if you intend 
to use this as a coffee table where 
you will serve beverages. I used a 
water- based stain and 3 coats of 
high-gloss finish for the product, 
but there are other options. Ask the 
friendly people at your 
neighborhood paint store for 

This project originally appeared in MAKE Volume 09 . 

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This document was last generated on 201 2-1 0-30 06:40:48 PM. 

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